Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority
There were plenty of bright spots for the smartphone industry in 2023. We finally got more foldable phone competition for Samsung, mid-range phones continued to bring the heat, and software update policies saw a major upgrade.
It wasn’t all good, though. For every major win in the mobile space this year, there was a fail or major misstep. These were the biggest smartphone fails and flops in 2023.
C. Scott Brown / Android Authority
Nothing loves to generate hype. At times, they’re more of a marketing firm than a consumer tech company. But the Nothing Chats saga was a major smartphone industry fail and generated plenty of negative attention for the upstart brand.
Nothing Chats was supposed to let Nothing Phone owners use iMessage, but it had major security concerns.
Nothing Chats was a messaging app that allowed Nothing Phone owners to use iMessage, powered by the Sunbird app. Unfortunately, it quickly turned out that the underlying Sunbird tech had major security and privacy concerns. Was it any wonder that the company pulled Nothing Chats from the Play Store?
Between this and vulnerabilities discovered with the firm’s smartwatch app, While there were some positives along the way like the Nothing Phone 2, Carl Pei’s brash company clearly ended 2023 on a low. But it wants you to forget about all that and buy Nothing Apparel, of course.
Overheating iPhone 15 Pro models
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority
Apple launched the iPhone 15 series in September, and people quickly discovered that the Pro models ran hotter than normal. This was confirmed in our own testing, as we found that the phones were noticeably hotter when running sustained workloads compared to Android rivals.
We also thought the phones got unreasonably hot while charging. This was particularly interesting as Apple’s phones charged at a much slower rate than the likes of the Galaxy S23 Ultra.
Thankfully, Apple released a software update for the iPhone 15 Pro series that addressed heating concerns. But this was still a notable misstep for the Cupertino giant.
Great BBK phones skip Europe
Robert Triggs / Android Authority
Perhaps one of the most disappointing phone fails of 2023 was due to Chinese conglomerate BBK’s legal tussle with Nokia. This resulted in BBK brands most notably OPPO and vivo either exiting or somewhat curtailing operations in Europe. This was a major loss for consumers in these markets, depriving users of some great phones.
The OPPO Find X6 Pro is one of the best camera phones of the year, but you can’t get it in Europe due to a legal battle.
The most high-profile casualty was the OPPO Find X6 Pro. We really liked this device, and it certainly made for one of the best camera phones anywhere in the world. But the decision to make it a China-only release remains truly frustrating. Nokia and BBK really need to come to an agreement in 2024 because the Find X7 series skipping global markets would be a shame.
The thin HONOR Magic V2 skips 2023
Kris Carlon / Android Authority
HONOR launched the Magic Vs — its first globally available foldable phone — back at MWC 2023. However, the company blew that device out of the water when it launched the Magic V2 in China back in July. An ultra-thin book-style foldable with a sensibly designed outer screen, stylus support, and great core specs? Sign us up.
HONOR would go on to showcase the Magic V2 at IFA 2023 in August, but it then utterly dropped the ball by saying the foldable would only launch globally in Q1 2024. That’s at least six months after the Chinese launch. This delay left the door open to rivals like the well-received OnePlus Open and more powerful next-generation foldable phones to snatch the spotlight.
It’s a massive shame, given that the foldable saw loads of interest from readers and tech enthusiasts online. While we may eventually see it in the coming months, the company essentially had an open goal here but still went out of its way to put the ball in its own net.
Brands still lagging behind on update policies
Robert Triggs / Android Authority
Plenty of major smartphone brands have announced significantly longer update policies over the past couple of years. Unfortunately, a few companies in still insist on doing the bare minimum, if that.
Google, Samsung, and others are offering much longer update pledges, but the likes of Sony and TCL couldn’t be bothered.
ASUS, Sony, POCO, TCL, and ZTE have all offered invariably disappointing commitments to software updates in 2023. These brands typically offered one or two major OS updates and two or three years of security patches. This was particularly inexcusable for Sony and its $1,400 Xperia 1 V. Why are you expecting people to pay that much when you won’t even match a $300 Samsung phone for updates?
The Pixel Tablet’s crappy speaker dock experience
Harley Maranan / Android Authority
This isn’t a phone-related entry, but it was a big mobile misstep, and we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention this. Google came up with a really cool concept when it announced the Pixel Tablet and its accompanying speaker dock back in May. Pop the Pixel Tablet into the dock and you’ve got a smart display. Great! Only, the execution was a little underbaked.
Sure, you’ve got staple Nest Hub features like smart home controls and digital photo frame functionality, but you miss out on Continued Conversations, displaying air quality info, Nest Cam functionality, and much more.
The biggest issue, however, is that the speaker dock is useless when you remove the tablet. The dock doesn’t support Bluetooth or casting on its own, nor does it offer Assistant without the slate. That means you’ve got a dead speaker taking up room that won’t do anything. To make matters worse, if you want an additional dock for use in another room, that’ll cost you a whopping $129. So, you should absolutely forget about buying a second speaker dock — just use Hub Mode while charging instead.
The Pixel 8 Pro temperature sensor
Ryan Haines / Android Authority
We could scarcely believe a leaked video back in May, showing the Pixel 8 Pro being used as a thermometer. This turned out to be true, as the phone indeed shipped with a temperature sensor on the back.
The Pixel 8 Pro has a temperature sensor, which seems like a gimmick in theory. It turns out this is a gimmick in practice too.
Sadly, the actual implementation has also proven to be more of a gimmick than anything useful. Our own Pixel 8 Pro temperature sensor testing showed that it was noticeably inaccurate compared to a dedicated IR thermometer. It also didn’t help that you have to hold the $1,000 phone roughly two inches (five centimeters) away from the desired object/subject — not ideal when you’re dealing with something like a scorching hot pan.
One potential consolation is that Google is working with the FDA to seek regulatory approval to use the temperature sensor on humans. So it might be more useful and accurate in the future, but right now? Yeah, it’s still a gimmick.
What was the biggest fail in your opinion?